S01E09 - Sisters of St. Joseph

In this episode, we chat with two Sisters of St. Joseph who have given decades of their lives to St. Rose High School. Sister Kathleen Boyle, SSJ, and Sister Marie O'Hagan share their stories of getting the call to a life of vocation, how they chose the Sisters of St. Joseph, and the next chapter in both of their lives. We will also find out how two seniors, Trevor Donnelly '21 and Christian Chinery '21 left Sister Marie speechless by giving her the greatest gift from one of her heroes. We also learn a little bit of history on how the Sisters of St. Joseph who founded St. Rose High School in 1923 got their start.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia trace their origins and spirit to six women who came together in 1650 in war-ravaged LePuy, France, with great desires for union with God, among themselves and with their neighbors. Encouraged and aided by Jesuit Jean Pierre Medaille, they were among the first to create religious life for women outside cloister.

The Congregation flourished until the end of the eighteenth century when the French Revolution dispersed or imprisoned our sisters. Five sisters were guillotined, but on the eve of her execution, Mother St. John Fontbonne was spared. In 1807, she began the work of refounding the Congregation in Lyon. In 1836, in response to the needs of the Church in the Missouri mission, she sent six sisters to St. Louis. From this foundation, sisters like Julie Fournier spread all over the United States and Canada.

With three sisters, Mother Saint John Fournier left St. Louis in 1847 to administer Saint John’s Orphanage for Boys in Philadelphia. Their generosity in responding to each new call for assistance prompted Bishop Kenrick to describe them as sisters “ready for any good work.” In that spirit, we continue to respond to the sufferings and injustices of each particular time and place.

With the advice and support of Bishop John Neumann, the sisters acquired their first novitiate and academy in McSherrystown, PA, in 1854. In 1858, they purchased the Middleton family home, our current Motherhouse and administrative center in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, and the first site of Mount Saint Joseph Academy.

Today, our Congregation numbers more than 800 women serving largely in the Middle Atlantic states and in many other areas from Alaska to Peru.

The Sisters whole-hearted response to the educational needs of new immigrants, in both urban and rural settings, focused energy in schools of every kind and at every level.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the sisters’ responses included the care of orphans, children with special needs, widows, formation of catechists, nursing during the Civil War, and the influenza epidemic of 1918. Our historical response to peoples’ needs has evolved into a variety of current ministries.

The Sisters of St. Joseph carry a special concern for those who are poor and work with others to provide for their needs and to change structures that cause poverty and oppression. Although the sisters cannot respond to every need, every good work is a possibility where God's great love heals divisions and brings people to unity.

These efforts have led us, our associates, and our lay partners to deepen our commitment to our common mission:

We live and work so that all people may be united with God and with one another.